The sub-title of J. Budziszewski’s 2009 book, The Line Through the Heart, reads as follows: “Natural Law as Fact, Theory, and Sign of Contradiction.” The initial dedicatory citation in the book, from which the book derives its title, is a memorable one from Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It reads: “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” Needless to say, this sentence is soul-wrenching. It compels us all to stop blaming external causes and systems for the conditions of our souls and of our society. This insight is but a graphic adaption of Plato’s affirmation that the disorders of our polities are first found in the disorders of our own souls. These disorders are not our subjective “feelings” about what ought to be if we were given what we wanted but standards first found in the reality of things that remain valid and have their defined consequences whether we ignore them or not.
What particularly struck me in reading Budziszewski’s book, however, was his attention to natural law as itself a sign of contradiction. He went into what has always been a murky moral area, namely, why is it so difficult to recognize and act on the truth of things? We might, at first sight, think that it is a rather simple problem. Show me the truth and I will change my ways! But it does not really work that way. One might say that our public order is today a massive refusal to accept the truth of human nature itself. We ultimately are forced to justify this doing what we want by denying that there is a human nature to conform ourselves to.